Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Now here's one to keep you awake at night. More drips from Seymore Hersh about dick cheney.
In an interview with Hersh on NPR's Fresh Air, Terry Gross asked about cheney's continuing influence among White House staff:
GROSS: Are you saying that you think Vice President Cheney is still having a chilling effect on people who might otherwise be coming forward and revealing things to you about what happened in the Bush administration?
HERSH: I’ll make it worse. I think he’s put people left. He’s put people back. They call it a stay behind. It’s sort of an intelligence term of art. When you leave a country and, you know, you’ve driven out the, you know, you’ve lost the war. You leave people behind. It’s a stay behind that you can continue contacts with, to do sabotage, whatever you want to do. Cheney’s left a stay behind. He’s got people in a lot of agencies that still tell him what’s going on. Particularly in defense, obviously. Also in the NSA, there’s still people that talk to him. He still knows what’s going on. Can he still control policy up to a point? Probably up to a point, a minor point. But he’s still there. He’s still a presence. And again, because of the problems this administration’s having filling jobs, a lot of people who served in the Bush Cheney government, particularly even in the White House people on most sophisticated staffs are still there. You simply can’t get rid of everybody, you may not even want to. Some are professional people. But Cheney is, I would never call it admiration, but, you know, formidable, yeah, this guy. This guy is the real McCoy.
I remember in January talking about the Obama team "sweeping out the stables." It wasn't nearly as much a clean sweep as we thought. We knew, of course, in the final months, the bush people were switching people from political appointee positions to career positions, especially in the Justice Department. I was concerned about them hogging the positions that wouldn't then be available for Obama to fill, as well about their ideology continuing.
It didn't occur to me that they might also be "moles," as in spy terms. But coming on the heels of Hersh's hints about the secret assassination squad that reported only to cheney, it does not surprise me at all if he did this to retain some power.
A Spanish court has launched a criminal investigation into whether six Bush administration lawyers, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, violated international law by providing the legal framework to justify the Bush administration’s use of torture at Guantanamo. Spain’s law allows it to claim jurisdiction in the case because five Spanish citizens or residents who were prisoners at Guantanamo Bay say they were tortured there. The case was sent to the Spanish prosecutor’s office for review by Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish judge who ordered the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998. The other former Bush administration officials facing investigation are former Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay Bybee, Pentagon official Douglas Feith, Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff David Addington, and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes. Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights praised the Spanish court’s decision and said arrest warrants might have already been issued.This is very welcome news, coming as it does on the heels of Seymore Hersh's hinting at Dick Cheney's secret assassination squad that reported only to him in the VP's office and Hersh's telling Terry Gross that Cheney left behind a mole in some of the White House offices and is still keeping his finger on what's going on.
The case in Spain may never land those guys in court. It would require extradition cooperation from our government, which is unlikely. But, if indictments are made, then those men will be unable to travel to any European Union country without being arrested and tried.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Some have suggested that this is Sarcozy's posturing for home political consumption. Nevertheless, it introduces a tension into Obama's first international meeting and will test his diplomatic skills.
The controversy is not only about what to do to fix the crisis but also stems from the French, and to a lesser extent, the German wish to place the blame for the crisis on the U.S. and its cavalier attitude toward the rest of the world under george bush.
Unlike his predecessor, however, Obama is playing it cool. As reported in the U.K. 's Daily Telegraph, one of his aides emphasized his willingness to regulate hedge funds and clamp down on offshore tax havens.
Michael Forman, Obama's Deputy National Security Advisor, also indicated that President Obama
"believed the United States should accept much of the blame for the economic crisis.". . .I know the Republicans will accuse him of weakness and giving in to the Europeans, but I think a conciliatory approach is called for.
"He talks about the era of irresponsibility. So I don't think we are at all averse to having an open dialogue about the causes of this crisis. The causes are many, they're not limited to the U.S. But we're not here to be defensive or to shirk any responsibility.
First of all, we are responsible for much of the global problem. And secondly we need to give, as well as get, cooperation with our allies. It's hard enough to solve our own financial crisis, and we cannot do it isolated from the global system.
How this turns out will do much to set the tone for renewing our position in world opinion.
Sunday, March 29, 2009
I think that our all-out, trillion dollar commitment to the destruction of al Queda is a residue of the madness of 9/11. When I came to this conclusion I was pretty shocked, myself. But Al Queda is very small and we are very large; we have many more bombers than Al Queda has bombs; we have satellites, they are afraid to use cellphones; we kill from computer screens in Colorado [computer-operated drone aircraft directed from command center in CO], they have to strap dynamite on men and women; we own the air and the sea, they are hidden in the mountains of Central Asia. How can we possibly think that Al Queda offers us anything like an existential threat or is worth a battle that has already lasted longer than World Wars I and II combined?I respect Jay's stand and basically agree with him. And yet . . .
Al Queda is our enemy. It hates us and wants us dead. We need to be more vigilant about it and more aggressive toward it than we were before 9/11. But we aren't up against German Panzers or Soviet missiles -- and we act as if we were.
Since 9/11 we have spent, or committed ourselves to spending more than $1 trillion on military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Five thousand of our soldiers have died and an equal number of civilian employees; probably 25 thousand have been badly maimed. We have been complicit in the deaths of at least 400,000 and some say more than a million Afghans and Iraqis. And we have almost certainly created more terrorists than we have killed.
As they say on Chicago streets, we have been "played" by Al Queda. They played us for fools and fools we have been for 8 years.
I think he's right that we are caught in a residue of madness from 9/11, but the fact is that this little band did plan and execute the collapse of the iconic buildings of the world's trading center, killed 3000 people, and threw our giant nation into shocked chaos. Could we possibly be so rational and disciplined to accept anything less than the full pursuit of them to the end?
Even if the military and civilian advisers in his administration agreed, could Obama possibly sell a plan to the American people, much less Congress, to simply pull up and leave, relying instead on beefed up intelligence and security?
My rational mind agrees with Jay. But we are not a rational people. Suppose we did that and there was another 9/11 attack in this country?
These are very hard choices, and I'm glad that Obama is making them and not me. I trust his judgment far more than my own on this, and I'm going to leave it to him -- at least for now.
Jay is an idealist on this, and I tend to be also. But I also know that Obama is limited by what he thinks he can lead the American people and Congress to accept and support.
And I was very impressed with Geithner. Unlike snippets of his testimony and news clips, where he often seemed not very clear or articulate, he was clear, crisp, thoughtful, and confident.
I have to change my prior criticism that placed him in the group with "Wall Street DNA," unable to think outside that box. He corrected this misperception, saying that he has worked his entire career in the public sector. He has never worked for a bank, and every plan he has advanced regarding banks was not to benefit banks but to allow them to do what will benefit the people and small businesses.
He spoke of needing to get banks to take risks so they will make loans again. They took too much risk that got us in trouble, but now the problem is that they're too unwilling to take risks and make even good loans. The toxic assets plan is an incentive to lure private investors in who will take some risk, the government will take some risk, and banks will start lending again.
In answer to criticism that it's a boondoggle for investors who make a small risk and the government will absorb most of the losses, he says that, if it doesn't work, the government would have even more losses if it tried to do it without private investors. And if it does work, the government (tax payers) gain.
His plan is a middle course between those who want to let the banks fail, take them over and restructure them, and those who think we should nationalize on a much bigger scale. He agrees that the danger is that we do too little, are not aggressive enough; but, unlike Paul Krugman who calls for a much bigger government plan, he says that Obama has to consider what members of Congress will go along with.
So, as of today, I return to thinking Obama made a good choice and I will give him the benefit of any doubt and time to prove that he's right. Now, my reservations about Summers remain: he's very smart but steeped in Wall Street DNA.